eso9104 — Organisation Release

The VLT Observatory at Paranal Takes Shape

ESO Awards Contracts to Dutch and Danish Firms

26 April 1991

The decision to place the world's largest telescope, the ESO 16 metre equivalent Very Large Telescope (VLT) on the Paranal mountain in the Chilean Atacama desert [1], taken by the ESO Council on 4 December 1990, was today followed up by an important next step. During a small ceremony at the European Southern Observatory Headquarters in Garching, two major contracts were signed which will together define the future shape of the VLT Observatory and its infrastructure.

Following a call for tenders which was responded to by a large number of engineering companies in the ESO member countries, ESO is now awarding contracts to INTERBETON of The Hague, the Netherlands, and COWIconsult of Copenhagen, Denmark. The contracts were signed by Mr. A.J.M. Boersma, Area Director (INTERBETON) and Mr. K. 0stergaard Hansen, Executive Director (COWIconsult) Professor H. van der Laan, Director General of ESO.

INTERBETON will carry out the leveling and landscaping of the Paranal mountain, so that it can accommodate the entire array of 8 metre and auxiliary telescopes as well as associated buildings that together make up the VLT Observatory. About 23 metres will be cut off the Paranal peak by blasting and ripping, leaving a flat area of about 20,000 m2 at 2640 m altitude. In July 1991, INTERBETON will establish a base camp for the temporary housing of its personnel in the hostile desert surroundings and the actual blasting will start in September 1991. It is expected that this work will be terminated in February or March 1992, after the removal of no less than 250,000 m3 of rock and gravel.

COWIconsult will perform an in-depth engineering design study of all the structures and buildings which will later be erected at Paranal as well as of the optimal lay-out of the necessary access roads and also the entire infrastructure.

The Paranal site is one of the most pristine in the world and ESO is placing great emphasis on the need to preserve it in a condition that is as close to the original as possible. The COWIconsult study will therefore include the innovnative use of alternative sources of energy, for instance wind turbines and photovoltaic solar cells for providing electricity and thermal solar cells to heat the buildings. Water tanks must be provided to store the water which will be trucked from Antofagasta to this absolute dry, remote location. This study will take about 12 months, following which the actual construction work will begin in the second half of 1992.


[1] See eso9011


Richard West
Garching, Germany

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About the Release

Release No.:eso9104
Legacy ID:PR 04/91
Name:ESO Member States, Very Large Telescope
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope
Facility:Very Large Telescope